How To Transform Learning with Google Tools – Miguel Guhlin

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Teachers often struggle during professional development sessions, wondering how to make connections between how-to at the workshop and classroom learning. Diana Benner, Peggy Reimers, and I did some napkin PD planning and came up with a solution.

Here’s a chance to get hands-on Google experience with six different project stations that offer the opportunity to explore lesser-known Google tools. These tools enhance critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Developing PD on a napkin with Diana Benner, Peggy Reimers, and Miguel Guhlin. Let’s explore these ideas in more detail.

Essential Elements

Before we jump into the project stations, let’s review a few components common to each. Each project station includes three components:

  • Explore
  • Adapt/Create
  • Share

In the Explore portion, participants develop background knowledge in the key concept shared. In the Adapt/Create, they make connections between their own experiences as learners. Two ways to accomplish this include adapting an existing work in light of new information. The second way is to create a new product. After they create or adapt, they share that online with a global audience. An additional component is listing what Google tools will be used.

Project Station #1: Inquiry-Based Learning Developers

In this station, participants will explore inquiry-based learning (IBL). Why continue to introduce IBL in professional learning? IBL creates engagement in both teachers and learners. Research has shown it has several benefits. It can:

  • Boost students’ learning in inter-disciplinary studies
  • Motivate students to learn, developing flexible, real-life, problem-solving strategies
  • Deepen critical thinking skills
  • Use of knowledge in new areas (Source)

Learning to ask the right questions and then finding answers that work remain critical to the work of educators and their students. To that end, it’s important to scaffold the use of IBL in the context of modern tools. Not unlike Dr. Bernie Dodge’s and Tom March’s webquest activity, new approaches adapt IBL for modern technology.

  • Explore: In this station, participants are given twenty minutes.
  • Adapt/Create: Participants, having explored hyperdoc exemplars, rely on a template to develop their own hyperdoc.
  • Share: Participants share their hyperdoc creation or modification with others via a sharing space, such as Google Forms tied into a Google Sheet or link their hyperdoc in an existing Google Doc created for that purpose.
  • Tools: Google Docs, Google Slides

Project Station #2: Research Explorers

One of the first uses of the internet for teachers involves encouraging students to use it for research. It’s important to clarify expectations for research-based activities. While research should be embedded in the context of an inquiry-based learning lesson, some additional expectations can be set. Students can be expected to:

  • Craft a research question
  • Locate and gather appropriate sources
  • Consider and assess the quality of the sources
  • Seek patterns in the data
  • Develop a position about the research

Given that the internet is a deep ocean of information, it’s important to assist students to engage in content curation using frameworks like the Big 6, Super 3, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). While there are many online research tools that could be introduced, one of note is Google Scholar.

“I usually start with Google Scholar or Google just to figure out what the topic is. Once I have a better idea, I’ll go deeper,” says Leslie Harris O’Hanlon. “For example, if it’s a history paper, I’ll use the online library catalog, or sometimes there are e-books online through the university” (Source).

  • Explore: Participants experience the power of Google Scholar as a tool to find journals, save document sources in a personal space, and obtain citations. First, participants go through the process of developing a research question using the infographic from UC San Diego Library as a guide. Then they complete the steps.
  • Adapt/Create: Participants begin with a general topic, then narrow the topic down with How and Why questions, not unlike what is shown in the image below:
  • Share: Once participants have identified a topic using Google Scholar to identify research and information, they can create a Google Slides PDF ebook or Google Docs.
  • Tools: Google Scholar, Google Docs ePub export or Google Slides PDF ebook

Project Station #3: Multimedia Tour Builders

Mix up learning for your students. Create engaging and relevant learning experiences for students with Google Tour Builder. Better yet, turn students loose to create their own multimedia tours of relevant content. Tour Builder enables students to create a virtual tour of their research data, adding photos, text, and video as needed. This map-based approach enables students to organize their research according to location and impact, which is appropriate for various topics. Students combine research, life stories, images, and video to make a compelling case for their research thesis.

  • Explore: Encourage participants to explore existing Google Tours available and then reflect on how current content in their curriculum goals could be aligned.
  • Adapt/Create: Using a simple storyboard template, participants use Google Tour Builder to create a multimedia tour relevant to an area of study.
  • Share: Once participants have completed their tour, they make it available via a Google Form or common space or backchannel (e.g. Tozzl in lieu of Padlet).
  • Tools: Google Tour-Builder, Maps 3D

Project Station #4: Toontastic Reporters

Whether you have students synthesizing information from a variety of sources and then reporting it in front of a green screen (read tips about setting up your own inexpensive green screen, as well as see examples) or creating reports with Toontastic, students can learn quite a bit. Putting students in the role of journalists has a powerful impact on their own ability to curate and construct knowledge. Consider the following benefits:

  • Students develop the critical thinking skills needed to be smarter, frequent, transliterate consumers (and creators) of information
  • Students learn to tell between fact and opinion
  • Learners explore how to become better-informed citizens and voters (Source: The News Literacy Project)

One approach to achieve this involves presenting a problem and then inviting students to create a report that presents facts.

Wait, There’s More

Ready to get going with these project stations? Consider adding two more, if time allows. Two more final project stations include casting teachers in the roles of Flipped Learning Creators and Digital Breakout Artists.

In the former, flipped learning is explored. Participants learn to create screencasts, embed assessments with EdPuzzle, or engage in post-reflection activities with Google Forms. In the Digital Breakout Artists project station, participants learn how to create engaging activities that involve clue finding and problem solving.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

New Study Shows Correlation Between Employee Engagement And The Long-Lost Lunch Break – Alan Kohll

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Many American employees strive to perform their best in the workplace. They work overtime, agree to take on extra projects and rarely take a step away from their desk. In reality, this “work hard” mentality isn’t effective – and it’s definitely unhealthy. Employees who believe that they must work 24/7 to achieve a good standing in the workplace have the wrong idea. And unfortunately, employees often gain this idea through employers’ attitudes.

Chaining yourself to a desk or scarfing down your lunch in your cubicle isn’t a recipe for success – it’s a recipe for disaster. Without taking adequate breaks from work, employee productivity, mental well-being and overall work performance begin to suffer. Overworked employees often deal with chronic stress that can easily lead to job burnout. While this not only negatively affects employee health and well-being, it negatively affects the bottom line, too.

This is why it’s important that employers start encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the workday – especially lunch breaks. These breaks are essential in helping employees de-stress and re-charge for the rest of the workday. Regular breaks can also help improve overall job satisfaction. A recent survey by Tork shows exactly how important lunch breaks are, along with how rare they are in the North American workplace.

According to the survey:

  • Nearly 20% of North American workers worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks, while 13% worry their co-workers will judge them.
  • 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
  • 22% of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.

These statistics are really a shame because regular breaks create better employees. In fact, according to the Tork survey, nearly 90% of North American employees claim that taking a lunch breaks helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. There are many research-backed health, wellness and performance benefits of taking breaks. Here are just a few examples of the benefits of regular breaks:

  • Increased productivity. While taking breaks might sound counterintuitive when it comes to boosting productivity, it’s one of the best ways to do so. Employees gain focus and energy after stepping away from their desks. A lunch break can help prevent an unproductive, mid-afternoon slump.
  • Improved mental well-being. Employees need time to recharge. Stress is incredibly common in the North American workplace, and it has detrimental effects on employees. Taking some time away from the desk to go for a quick walk or enjoy a healthy lunch helps release some of this stress and improves mental well-being.
  • Creativity boost. Taking a break can give employees a fresh perspective on challenging projects. It’s hard for employees to develop new ideas or solutions when they’ve been looking at the same thing all day. A lunch break will most certainly help get those creative juices flowing.
  • More time for healthy habits. Regular breaks, including a lunch break, give employees time to practice healthy habits in the workplace. They can use break times to make a healthy lunch, exercise, meditate, or engage in a self-care activity.

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Besides these awesome benefits of regular breaks, the Tork survey also revealed that employees who take a lunch break on a daily basis feel more valued by their employer, and 81% of employees who take a daily lunch break having a strong desire to be an active member in their company.

North American employees who take a lunch break every day scored higher on a range of engagement metrics, including job satisfaction, likelihood to continue working at the same company and likelihood to recommend their employer to others.

I recently spoke with Jennifer Deal, the Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and Affiliated Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California (USC). She had this to say about Tork’s research and employee lunch breaks:

“The Tork research shows that employees who take a lunch break are more likely to be satisfied with their job, and say they are as effective and efficient as they would like to be. This is consistent with other research, which shows that taking breaks from work is important for recovery – and adequate recovery is critical for top performance.

Energy isn’t unlimited, and just as athletes have halftime to rest during a game, employees need to rest so they can do their best work. Taking a break in the middle of the day for lunch is a recovery period, allowing employees to come back refreshed and reinvigorated for the second half – as this research clearly shows.”

Both Tork and Jennifer agree: employers will benefit from employees who take breaks. But how can employers change the mentality that “breaks are for slackers” in the workplace? Below are a few tips for encouraging employees to take breaks at your office:

  • Revamp break rooms. Be sure that the office has at least one break room for employees to retreat to whenever they need some time away from their desks. Provide comfortable furniture along with table and chairs for eating lunch. Employees will be more inclined to take breaks and lunch breaks when they have a comfortable space to do so.
  • Provide incentives. As a part of your workplace wellness program, offer employees some sort of incentive for taking regular breaks and a daily lunch break. Try creating a “break challenge” and have employees document their breaks throughout the day. Reward employees for their participation.
  • Discuss the benefits. Many employees aren’t aware of all the health and productivity benefits of regular breaks. Send out an email blast, put up some flyers or have managers give talks about the importance of taking some time away from the desk.
  • Take breaks yourself. Leading by example is always the best route. When employees see that their managers are taking lunch breaks and taking short breaks throughout the day, they’ll feel more encouraged to take breaks, too.

While the act of encouraging breaks is a huge step in the right direction, it’s also important to ensure that these breaks are healthy. For example, employees could potentially use break time for unhealthy habits such as getting fast food, smoking or scrolling through social media. Spending break time practicing poor health habits won’t yield productivity and wellness benefits.

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Although employers can’t necessarily control how employees utilize their break time, they can certainly encourage healthy habits in the workplace. Here are some healthy break ideas:

  • Walking clubs. Team walking clubs are an excellent way to encourage regular breaks and physical activity. Encourage employees to form walking clubs with their colleagues and take two 10-minute walks each workday.
  • Healthy snacking. Stock company kitchens and break rooms with healthy snacking options like fresh fruit, veggies, hummus, and nuts. Encourage employees to take a midday break and do some healthy snacking together
  • Gym time. If employees really don’t want to leave the workplace for lunch, encourage them to use the gym instead. If you have an onsite gym, allow employees 30-minutes of on-the-clock time to use the facility. If you don’t have an onsite gym, consider bringing in a weekly yoga instructor or providing vouchers for gym memberships.
  • Socialize. Quality work relationships improve both mental and physical health. They help reduce stress and boost job satisfaction. Encourage employees to take breaks together by providing a game room or fun weekly team activities.
  • Quiet time. Sometimes break time is best spent as quiet time. Offer employees a quiet area to retreat to when they need to clear their minds and recharge. Employees can use this space to meditate, read or listen to some relaxing music.

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks throughout the day, including lunch breaks, is an easy way for employers to boost employee wellness along with work performance. Employers don’t want overworked employees running their business – it’s terrible for the bottom line. Help your employees feel refreshed and reduce some stress by allowing them to take regular breaks throughout the workday.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure by your donations – Thank you.

The 6 Worst Kinds of Late People (And The Message They’re Sending) – William Vanderbloemen

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You know these people. The late people. They make you crazy. You may be one of these people. The truth is, I’ve been all of these people at one time or another. And all seven of these people make me crazy too.

What people don’t realize is how the simple mistake of being late carries big consequences. When I’m late, it sends unintended messages to the room about me, and it’s not good. If you’re in an interview with me and I get one these messages, you may put yourself in an unwinnable position.

Meet the six worst kinds of late people and the message they are sending:

1. The “Frantic”

Every one of us knows this person. They run in the room with hair on fire (actually, they usually run in the place with wet hair), and bustle in just as you’re getting started (and after you’ve already waited).

Message sent: “I am drama.”

This kind of lateness projects a life that is out of control. A life that stays in drama mode. In the thousands of searches I’ve done over the years, I’ve never had a client ask for someone that is drama. In fact, most people want team members who are calm.

Conversely, being on time reduces stress.

By some estimates, the stress relief industry (products, books, etc.) is an $11 billion industry in the US alone. Here’s a free way to achieve what people are paying to find: be on time.

2. The “Unaware” (aka The Self Absorbed)

Ever have someone walk into a meeting late and not even notice they’re late? “Oh, have you all been waiting?”

Message sent: “I’m more important than you.”

The old saying is true: we measure what matters (to us). If you take steps to be on time for our meeting, you are actively communicating that you respect my time. Conversely, an innocent oversight of time can project a really self-absorbed image. That’s tough to recover from.

3. The “Unapologetic”

Some people just walk into a meeting late and keep rolling as if nothing has happened.

Message sent: “I don’t care.”

Being on time shows you can execute on a promise. Interviewing, at its root, is an attempt to size up whether or not a candidate can do a job. Showing up on time means that one of our very first contracts (the appointment) is one you can execute on. Being late and not apologizing? That tells me not only that you cannot do the job, but also that you do not care.

4. The “Victim”

“You won’t believe what happened to me on the way to work…” Actually, you’re right; I don’t believe you.

Message sent: “I’m a victim.”

Nobody wants to hire someone that’s a constant victim. Far too often, people respond to an error with excuses, with stories of what happened to them that cause them to be late. Yes, things happen, but not time after time. And when they do happen, the rare and refreshing response is the person who finds a way to own their mistake and learn from it.

5. The “Considerate”

How many times have you gotten the email or text from someone right before the meeting telling you all of the reasons they’re going to be late? Sometimes, this is a good thing, but most of the time?

Message sent: “Don’t believe me.”

I appreciate the heads up, but when the heads up is a three-page email, and the person walks in late with a Starbucks in hand, things get suspicious. How you respond to an error makes all the difference in how it is received. But wasting time writing a long email because the line for coffee is too long? That diminishes credibility.

6. The “Chronically Late”

This one is the worst, and whether you realize it or not, it sends a very clear message:

Message sent: “Don’t count on me.”

Being on time shows you’re in control of your life. It’s a broken world, and people are sometimes late for reasons out of their control. Try to drive anywhere in Houston one day and you’ll understand. In the end, an appointment is an agreement. If you constantly break my trust by failing to fulfill our agreement, I’m at the least going to think you’re undependable, and at worst not going to trust any of your promises.

Now that we have done over 10,000 face-to-face interviews at Vanderbloemen, I realize it’s the simple things that separate great candidates from the rest of the field. This one tip may be the most valuable…..Be on time.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

 

How Women Can Rebound From a Huge Work Mistake – Career Contessa

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Made a mistake at work? Don’t freak. Follow this strategy to fix it. I still remember the first mistake I made in my professional career. I was a White House intern and I was asked to edit an Excel document filled with addresses for the president’s Christmas cards.psychology of

There must have been thousands of addresses on the sheet, and I was supposed to edit the informal phrases — like “St.” and “P.O. Box” — to their formal equivalent (“Street” and “Post Office Box”). I wanted to find a quick solution, so I used the “Find and Replace” feature to quickly find and replace all informal words with the formal ones. It might have been a great solution, but I made a mistake — I didn’t realize that many names would also be changed as a result. So, Steven Potter became Streeteven Post Office Boxtter.

Unfortunately, mistakes happen. They happen in your personal life and they are bound to happen in your professional life, too. Some mistakes may even be out of your control — but what you can control is how you react and recover from your mistake.

Luckily, I was able to learn an effective and appropriate strategy for fixing a mistake early in my career. Here’s what I learned.

1. Calm down.

Making a big mistake is unnerving, and you’ll be able to think more clearly if you’ve calmed down first. I recommend taking a walk around the block or listening to your favorite song. Take a few deep breaths and reassure yourself that everything will be OK. You’ll be better at thinking clearly and finding a solution to the problem if you are calm.

2. Identify a solution.

Don’t come to your manager or team with a problem. Come with a solution. In my case, the solution was restoring the document to the original draft. Auto-restore wasn’t working, so I decided I would stay late until everything was fixed. Identify two or three ways that you can fix your mistake.

Don’t start implementing the plan until after you talk to the team. They may have suggestions, and will probably want to be kept in the loop as you move forward. Regardless of the outcome, people will be impressed by your proactivity and willingness to take accountability for the mistake.

3. Tell your manager.

It will be much better if the news is coming from you, not someone else. Don’t try to hide your mistake in the hope that no one will find out. Calmly explain the mistake and outline your plan for fixing it. Take responsibility and don’t blame other people. Even if it is a group mistake, be accountable for your part in it.

Your manager and team may have constructive criticism and feedback. Listen carefully to the feedback and show that you’ve acknowledged it. One good technique is to repeat what your manager has said to you. It shows that you are listening and also will help you remember the feedback in the future.

4. Create an action plan.

Reflect on the mistake and how you handled it. Create an action plan for how you can improve in the future. For example, if you missed an important client deadline, write down three or four ways that you can stay more organized. You might write all of your deadlines on a Post-it Note on your computer screen, while also adding them as tasks on your calendar, so you get an email reminder a few days ahead of time. You could also ask team members how they stay organized, and adopt some of their habits.

5. Move on.

Making a mistake may decrease your confidence. It’s important to recognize that you are human, and mistakes happen. Reframe the mistake in a positive light by acknowledging how it’s led you to make changes that will improve your performance in the long run. As James Joyce once said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I had to see the humor in my situation. I still sometimes sign Facebook posts or emails to my White House intern friends as “Streeteven Post Office Boxtter”. At the end of the day, the holiday cards went out, and it wasn’t the Excel spreadsheet that stole Christmas.

It’s helpful to remember that mistakes often happen when you are stressed out. Make sure to take good care of yourself and practice self-love at work. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone handles them maturely. Follow these five tips to gracefully and maturely handle and learn from your mistakes in the future.

If everyone who reads our articles and likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $5, you can donate us – Thank you.

How to Play to Your Strengths

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Most feedback accentuates the negative. During formal employee evaluations, discussions invariably focus on “opportunities for improvement,” even if the overall evaluation is laudatory. Informally, the sting of criticism lasts longer than the balm of praise. Multiple studies have shown that people pay keen attention to negative information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events, people remember four negative memories for every positive one. No wonder most executives give and receive performance reviews with all the enthusiasm of a child on the way to the dentist.

Traditional, corrective feedback has its place, of course; every organization must filter out failing employees and ensure that everyone performs at an expected level of competence. Unfortunately, feedback that ferrets out flaws can lead otherwise talented managers to overinvest in shoring up or papering over their perceived weaknesses, or forcing themselves onto an ill-fitting template. Ironically, such a focus on problem areas prevents companies from reaping the best performance from its people. After all, it’s a rare baseball player who is equally good at every position. Why should a natural third baseman labor to develop his skills as a right fielder?

Why should a natural third baseman labor to develop his skills as a right fielder?

The alternative, as the Gallup Organization researchers Marcus Buckingham, Donald Clifton, and others have suggested, is to foster excellence in the third baseman by identifying and harnessing his unique strengths. It is a paradox of human psychology that while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better. Managers who build up their strengths can reach their highest potential. This positive approach does not pretend to ignore or deny the problems that traditional feedback mechanisms identify. Rather, it offers a separate and unique feedback experience that counterbalances negative input. It allows managers to tap into strengths they may or may not be aware of and so contribute more to their organizations.

During the past few years, we have developed a powerful tool to help people understand and leverage their individual talents. Called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise, our method allows managers to develop a sense of their “personal best” in order to increase their future potential. The RBS exercise is but one example of new approaches springing from an area of research called positive organizational scholarship (POS). Just as psychologists know that people respond better to praise than to criticism, organizational behavior scholars are finding that when companies focus on positive attributes such as resilience and trust, they can reap impressive bottom-line returns. (For more on this research, see the sidebar “The Positive Organization.”) Thousands of executives, as well as tomorrow’s leaders enrolled in business schools around the world, have completed the RBS exercise.

In this article, we will walk you through the RBS exercise step-by-step and describe the insights and results it can yield. Before we proceed, however, a few caveats are in order. First, understand that the tool is not designed to stroke your ego; its purpose is to assist you in developing a plan for more effective action. (Without such a plan, you’ll keep running in place.) Second, the lessons generated from the RBS exercise can elude you if you don’t pay sincere attention to them. If you are too burdened by time pressures and job demands, you may just file the information away and forget about it. To be effective, the exercise requires commitment, diligence, and follow-through. It may even be helpful to have a coach keep you on task. Third, it’s important to conduct the RBS exercise at a different time of year than the traditional performance review so that negative feedback from traditional mechanisms doesn’t interfere with the results of the exercise.

Used correctly, the RBS exercise can help you tap into unrecognized and unexplored areas of potential. Armed with a constructive, systematic process for gathering and analyzing data about your best self, you can burnish your performance at work.

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Step 1

Identify Respondents and Ask for Feedback

The first task in the exercise is to collect feedback from a variety of people inside and outside work. By gathering input from a variety of sources—family members, past and present colleagues, friends, teachers, and so on—you can develop a much broader and richer understanding of yourself than you can from a standard performance evaluation.

As we describe the process of the Reflected Best Self exercise, we will highlight the experience of Robert Duggan (not his real name), whose self-discovery process is typical of the managers we’ve observed. Having retired from a successful career in the military at a fairly young age and earned an MBA from a top business school, Robert accepted a midlevel management position at an IT services firm. Despite strong credentials and leadership experience, Robert remained stuck in the same position year after year. His performance evaluations were generally good but not strong enough to put him on the high-potential track. Disengaged, frustrated, and disheartened, Robert grew increasingly stressed and disillusioned with his company. His workday felt more and more like an episode of Survivor.

Seeking to improve his performance, Robert enrolled in an executive education program and took the RBS exercise. As part of the exercise, Robert gathered feedback from 11 individuals from his past and present who knew him well. He selected a diverse but balanced group—his wife and two other family members, two friends from his MBA program, two colleagues from his time in the army, and four current colleagues.

Robert then asked these individuals to provide information about his strengths, accompanied by specific examples of moments when Robert used those strengths in ways that were meaningful to them, to their families or teams, or to their organizations. Many people—Robert among them—feel uncomfortable asking for exclusively positive feedback, particularly from colleagues. Accustomed to hearing about their strengths and weaknesses simultaneously, many executives imagine any positive feedback will be unrealistic, even false. Some also worry that respondents might construe the request as presumptuous or egotistical. But once managers accept that the exercise will help them improve their performance, they tend to dive in.

Within ten days, Robert received e-mail responses from all 11 people describing specific instances when he had made important contributions—including pushing for high quality under a tight deadline, being inclusive in communicating with a diverse group, and digging for critical information. The answers he received surprised him. As a military veteran and a technical person holding an MBA, Robert rarely yielded to his emotions. But in reading story after story from his respondents, Robert found himself deeply moved—as if he were listening to appreciative speeches at a party thrown in his honor. The stories were also surprisingly convincing. He had more strengths than he knew. (For more on Step 1, refer to the exhibit “Gathering Feedback.”)

Step 2

Recognize Patterns

In this step, Robert searched for common themes among the feedback, adding to the examples with observations of his own, then organizing all the input into a table. (To view parts of Robert’s table, see the exhibit “Finding Common Themes.”) Like many who participate in the RBS exercise, Robert expected that, given the diversity of respondents, the comments he received would be inconsistent or even competing. Instead, he was struck by their uniformity. The comments from his wife and family members were similar to those from his army buddies and work colleagues. Everyone took note of Robert’s courage under pressure, high ethical standards, perseverance, curiosity, adaptability, respect for diversity, and team-building skills. Robert suddenly realized that even his small, unconscious behaviors had made a huge impression on others. In many cases, he had forgotten about the specific examples cited until he read the feedback, because his behavior in those situations had felt like second nature to him.

Finding Common Themes

 

The RBS exercise confirmed Robert’s sense of himself, but for those who are unaware of their strengths, the exercise can be truly illuminating. Edward, for example, was a recently minted MBA executive in an automotive firm. His colleagues and subordinates were older and more experienced than he, and he felt uncomfortable disagreeing with them. But he learned through the RBS exercise that his peers appreciated his candid alternative views and respected the diplomatic and respectful manner with which he made his assertions. As a result, Edward grew bolder in making the case for his ideas, knowing that his boss and colleagues listened to him, learned from him, and appreciated what he had to say.

Other times, the RBS exercise sheds a more nuanced light on the skills one takes for granted. Beth, for example, was a lawyer who negotiated on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Throughout her life, Beth had been told she was a good listener, but her exercise respondents noted that the interactive, empathetic, and insightful manner in which she listened made her particularly effective. The specificity of the feedback encouraged Beth to take the lead in future negotiations that required delicate and diplomatic communications.

For naturally analytical people, the analysis portion of the exercise serves both to integrate the feedback and develop a larger picture of their capabilities. Janet, an engineer, thought she could study her feedback as she would a technical drawing of a suspension bridge. She saw her “reflected best self” as something to interrogate and improve. But as she read the remarks from family, friends, and colleagues, she saw herself in a broader and more human context. Over time, the stories she read about her enthusiasm and love of design helped her rethink her career path toward more managerial roles in which she might lead and motivate others.

Step 3

Compose Your Self-Portrait

The next step is to write a description of yourself that summarizes and distills the accumulated information. The description should weave themes from the feedback together with your self-observations into a composite of who you are at your best. The self-portrait is not designed to be a complete psychological and cognitive profile. Rather, it should be an insightful image that you can use as a reminder of your previous contributions and as a guide for future action. The portrait itself should not be a set of bullet points but rather a prose composition beginning with the phrase, “When I am at my best, I…” The process of writing out a two- to four-paragraph narrative cements the image of your best self in your consciousness. The narrative form also helps you draw connections between the themes in your life that may previously have seemed disjointed or unrelated. Composing the portrait takes time and demands careful consideration, but at the end of this process, you should come away with a rejuvenated image of who you are.

In developing his self-portrait, Robert drew on the actual words that others used to describe him, rounding out the picture with his own sense of himself at his best. He excised competencies that felt off the mark. This didn’t mean he discounted them, but he wanted to assure that the overall portrait felt authentic and powerful. “When I am at my best,” Robert wrote,

I stand by my values and can get others to understand why doing so is important. I choose the harder right over the easier wrong. I enjoy setting an example. When I am in learning mode and am curious and passionate about a project, I can work intensely and untiringly. I enjoy taking things on that others might be afraid of or see as too difficult. I’m able to set limits and find alternatives when a current approach is not working. I don’t always assume that I am right or know best, which engenders respect from others. I try to empower and give credit to others. I am tolerant and open to differences.

As Robert developed his portrait, he began to understand why he hadn’t performed his best at work: He lacked a sense of mission. In the army, he drew satisfaction from the knowledge that the safety of the men and women he led, as well as the nation he served, depended on the quality of his work. He enjoyed the sense of teamwork and variety of problems to be solved. But as an IT manager in charge of routine maintenance on new hardware products, he felt bored and isolated from other people.

The portrait-writing process also helped Robert create a more vivid and elaborate sense of what psychologists would call his “possible self”—not just the person he is in his day-to-day job but the person he might be in completely different contexts. Organizational researchers have shown that when we develop a sense of our best possible self, we are better able make positive changes in our lives.

Step 4

Redesign Your Job

Having pinpointed his strengths, Robert’s next step was to redesign his personal job description to build on what he was good at. Given the fact that routine maintenance work left him cold, Robert’s challenge was to create a better fit between his work and his best self. Like most RBS participants, Robert found that the strengths the exercise identified could be put into play in his current position. This involved making small changes in the way he worked, in the composition of his team, and in the way he spent his time. (Most jobs have degrees of freedom in all three of these areas; the trick is operating within the fixed constraints of your job to redesign work at the margins, allowing you to better play to your strengths.)

Robert began by scheduling meetings with systems designers and engineers who told him they were having trouble getting timely information flowing between their groups and Robert’s maintenance team. If communication improved, Robert believed, new products would not continue to be saddled with the serious and costly maintenance issues seen in the past. Armed with a carefully documented history of those maintenance problems as well as a new understanding of his naturally analytical and creative team-building skills, Robert began meeting regularly with the designers and engineers to brainstorm better ways to prevent problems with new products. The meetings satisfied two of Robert’s deepest best-self needs: He was interacting with more people at work, and he was actively learning about systems design and engineering.

Robert’s efforts did not go unnoticed. Key executives remarked on his initiative and his ability to collaborate across functions, as well as on the critical role he played in making new products more reliable. They also saw how he gave credit to others. In less than nine months, Robert’s hard work paid off, and he was promoted to program manager. In addition to receiving more pay and higher visibility, Robert enjoyed his work more. His passion was reignited; he felt intensely alive and authentic. Whenever he felt down or lacking in energy, he reread the original e-mail feedback he had received. In difficult situations, the e-mail messages helped him feel more resilient.

Robert was able to leverage his strengths to perform better, but there are cases in which RBS findings conflict with the realities of a person’s job. This was true for James, a sales executive who told us he was “in a world of hurt” over his work situation. Unable to meet his ambitious sales goals, tired of flying around the globe to fight fires, his family life on the verge of collapse, James had suffered enough. The RBS exercise revealed that James was at his best when managing people and leading change, but these natural skills did not and could not come into play in his current job. Not long after he did the exercise, he quit his high-stress position and started his own successful company.

Other times, the findings help managers aim for undreamed-of positions in their own organizations. Sarah, a high-level administrator at a university, shared her best-self portrait with key colleagues, asking them to help her identify ways to better exploit her strengths and talents. They suggested that she would be an ideal candidate for a new executive position. Previously, she would never have considered applying for the job, believing herself unqualified. To her surprise, she handily beat out the other candidates.

Beyond Good Enough

We have noted that while people remember criticism, awareness of faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance. Based on that understanding, the RBS exercise helps you remember your strengths—and construct a plan to build on them. Knowing your strengths also offers you a better understanding of how to deal with your weaknesses—and helps you gain the confidence you need to address them. It allows you to say, “I’m great at leading but lousy at numbers. So rather than teach me remedial math, get me a good finance partner.” It also allows you to be clearer in addressing your areas of weakness as a manager. When Tim, a financial services executive, received feedback that he was a great listener and coach, he also became more aware that he had a tendency to spend too much time being a cheerleader and too little time keeping his employees to task. Susan, a senior advertising executive, had the opposite problem: While her feedback lauded her results-oriented management approach, she wanted to be sure that she hadn’t missed opportunities to give her employees the space to learn and make mistakes.

In the end, the strength-based orientation of the RBS exercise helps you get past the “good enough” bar. Once you discover who you are at the top of your game, you can use your strengths to better shape the positions you choose to play—both now and in the next phase of your career.

By:

What It Takes to Think Deeply About Complex Problems

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The problems we’re facing often seem as complex as they do intractable. And as Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So what does it take to increase the complexity of our thinking?

Too many leaders default to looking at decisions as either-or: The answer is right or wrong, good or bad, win or lose. This binary thinking has a built-in limitation: Overrelying on any given solution eventually generates the opposite problem.

Consider the familiar story of the esteemed consultant brought in to address the CEO’s concern that decision making in her organization has become too centralized. The consultant’s solution? A detailed plan to decentralize. Three years later the CEO calls the consultant back in, worried that decision making has become too decentralized. The solution? A detailed plan to centralize.

Simple answers make us feel safer, especially in disruptive and tumultuous times. But rather than certainty, modern leaders need to consciously cultivate the capacity to see more ­— to deepen, widen, and lengthen their perspectives. Deepening depends on our willingness to challenge our blind spots, deeply held assumptions, and fixed beliefs. Widening means taking into account more perspectives ­— and stakeholders — in order to address any given problem from multiple vantage points. Lengthening requires focusing on not just the immediate consequences of a decision but also its likely impact over time.

To cultivate this more embracing perspective, my team and I encourage leaders to adopt three core practices:

Forever challenge your convictions. This practice begins with asking two key questions in the face of any difficult decision: “What am I not seeing here?” and “What else might be true?”

Most of us tend to default to what we already know. Confirmation bias is one of the most pernicious and predictable influences on our capacity to see more. Early in childhood, we begin to develop an internal narrative about how the world works and what we think is true. Over time, without realizing it, we come to believe our story is factual, and most of us spend the rest of our lives sticking to it. As Paul Simon puts it in “The Boxer”: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Confirmation bias makes us feel safer, but it also prevents us from seeing a more nuanced picture of the possible.

The reality is that any strength can be overused to the point that it becomes a liability. Think for a moment about one of your primary strengths. Then ask yourself: “What does it look like when I overuse it? What is the cost to my effectiveness, and what is the balancing quality I must cultivate?” For example, too much confidence eventually turns into arrogance. So long as we hold onto the mindset that the only alternative to confidence is insecurity, we’re far less likely to develop the balancing quality of humility, which is critical to considering multiple perspectives.

Do the most challenging task first every day. Most leaders we encounter have every minute of their calendars filled, typically with meetings and emails they write in between, often on the run. But relentless demands and the pressure to respond rapidly undermine more complex thinking. Critical as decisiveness can be, nuanced solutions emerge from wrestling with the most difficult issues, rather than prematurely closing in on a decision.

One of the most powerful rituals I’ve built in my life, one I’ve shared with many leaders, is to take on my most difficult challenge as the first work priority of the day, for at least 60 minutes without interruption. Scheduling this practice is a way of ensuring that I give complex issues time and attention that might otherwise be consumed by more urgent but less intellectually demanding and value-adding priorities.

Pay close attention to how you’re feeling. Embracing complexity is not just a cognitive challenge, but also an emotional one. In part, it’s about learning to manage negative emotions ­— anger and fear above all. When we move into a fight-or-flight state, our vision literally narrows, our prefrontal cortex begins to shut down, and we become more reactive and less capable of reflection. In these moments our attention automatically shifts from focusing on the task at hand to defending our sense of value. This awareness by itself helps to modulate the inclination to attack, blame, or scapegoat, and instead to turn inward to restore a state of equilibrium.

When we’re triggered, as little as 60 seconds of breathing deeply can be a powerful way to maintain physiological and emotional equilibrium. You can also do something as simple as getting up from your desk and taking a five- or 10-minute walk. Reacting from emotion tends to make us one-dimensional.

Above all, managing complexity requires courage ­— the willingness to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty and let its rivers run through us. The best practice is to not overrely on best practices, which typically emerge from our current assumptions and worldview. “In complex systems,” says leadership consultant Zafar Achi, “there is no recipe, only art.”

By:

Tony Schwartz

May 09, 2018

Kaizen Advantage PLR – Japanese Self Improvement Monitoring Strategy Of Life

 

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The Kaizen Advantage” All new 5,000 word, 37 Page Book On The Principle Of Kaizen
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